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POLITICO Playbook PM: Pelosi says Barr committed a crime as the A.G. rebuffs House Dems

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The witness chair reserved for Attorney General William Barr sits empty as Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., center background, gives his opening statement at a House Judiciary Committee hearing

The witness chair reserved for A.G. Bill Barr sits empty as House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) gives his opening statement at a hearing on Thursday, May 2. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

WELL, SO MUCH FOR THAT … THE PRESIDENT TWEETS at 12:29 p.m.: “Steve Moore, a great pro-growth economist and a truly fine person, has decided to withdraw from the Fed process. Steve won the battle of ideas including Tax Cuts….” “….and deregulation which have produced non-inflationary prosperity for all Americans. I’ve asked Steve to work with me toward future economic growth in our Country.”

— IN AN INTERVIEW earlier today with Bloomberg, Moore said he was “all in,” adding: “My biggest ally is the president … He’s full speed ahead.” The interview

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.) at her weekly news conference on A.G. BILL BARR: “He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.” Asked if he should go to jail for it, Pelosi declined to say, only stating that there is “a process” and that committees will determine how to proceed. Video

PELOSI also said she views President DONALD TRUMP’S “blanket statement” that his administration will be “fighting” all subpoenas as obstruction of justice.

… On USMCA: “The overarching issue is enforcement. You can have all the good language in the world you want, but if you don’t have enforcement, you’re just having a conversation. You’re not having a real negotiation.” Full news conference

— DOJ SPOX KERRI KUPEC: “Speaker Pelosi’s baseless attack on the attorney general is reckless, irresponsible and false.”

Via Heather Caygle and Andrew Desiderio: “[Democratic Florida Rep. Charlie] Crist later told POLITICO that he agreed Barr committed a crime. ‘It’s called perjury,’ he said. Asked what the result should be, Crist said, ‘We ought to have somebody who is in a law enforcement space charge him.’” POLITICO … Video of Crist’s questioning of Barr

ANDREW DESIDERIO: “House Dems threaten to hold Barr in contempt”: “The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday inched closer to holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report.

“‘Yes, we will continue to negotiate for access to the full report. And yes, we will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith,’ said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the committee. Nadler told reporters that he would give Barr a day or two, possibly until Monday, before proceeding to contempt. …

“The hearing concluded after just 16 minutes, with Barr’s nameplate sitting on the witness table in front of an empty chair. After the hearing, Democrats gathered to harangue Barr.” POLITICO … C-SPAN video

— READ THE TEA LEAVES: Is there any chance that House Democrats don’t try to impeach Barr this year?

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REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-N.Y.) — the No. 4 House Democrat — called Barr the “so-called attorney general.”

TENNESSEE DEMOCRATIC REP. STEVE COHEN also arrived to the hearing with a bucket of KFC chicken and a glass chicken figurine in tow. Later, he said “‘Chicken Barr’ should have shown up.” Video

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) eats chicken during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, May 2. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

HERE’S A BLEAK REALITY: Yes, it looks bad that the attorney general didn’t come to the Capitol. It’s bad for democracy to have an administration ignore the will of a co-equal branch of government. BARR opposes answering questions from a staff attorney, but — as CHAIRMAN JERRY NADLER of New York says — it cannot be up to the administration to decide how Congress conducts its business. This is all a mess.

BUT … The House has little immediate recourse in getting BARR to testify immediately. The court process will take time. Barr seems willing to withstand the political pressure — at least for the moment — and he seems to be gaining stature within the administration for standing up to Democrats.

IN TYPICAL TIMES, in a typical Congress with a typical administration, the Judiciary Committee would be able to come to an accommodation with DOJ that would assuage Barr’s concerns — allegedly his gripes with the hearing format — but still ensure that he testifies. It seems that we’re a long way from that, and it’s unclear we’ll ever get there.

ELIANA JOHNSON, ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY: “Former security clearance chief denies White House aides pressured him”: “[Former White House personnel security director Carl] Kline said that while he had at times overruled the recommendations of subordinates in his office, he had no regrets, according to two people with direct knowledge of his testimony. …

“Kline gave lawmakers the impression he overruled lower-level officials because they were unused to dealing with people who had the sort of complex business relationships that many in the Trump administration did. When he explored them more deeply, he ultimately determined they were not problematic from a security perspective, he said.” POLITICO

Good Thursday afternoon.

WSJ’S BRODY MULLINS and ALEX LEARY: “Washington’s Biggest Lobbyist, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gets Shut Out”: “A month before his inauguration, and shortly after he had finished a round of golf with Tiger Woods, Donald Trump was introduced to an adviser of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the chief advocacy group for American corporations.

“Stanton Anderson stood in the clubhouse of Mr. Trump’s golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla., and extended his hand to the president-elect. Mr. Trump refused it.

“‘You guys did everything to stop me,’ Mr. Trump said, his face reddening, according to two people who were there. ‘I haven’t forgotten.’ In the two years since, relations between Mr. Trump and Washington’s biggest lobbying organization haven’t much improved.” WSJ

HEADLINE THE PRESIDENT WILL LIKE … “CNN Poll: Trump’s approval rating on the economy hits a new high,” by CNN’s Grace Sparks: “President Donald Trump hits a new high on his economic approval ratings in a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, reaching 56% of Americans saying he’s doing a good job on the economy.” CNN

REPORT CARD — WSJ’S STEPHANIE ARMOUR: “Medicare for All Could Trim Costs, Impede Care, Report Says”: “Shifting the U.S. health-care system from private and employer insurance toward a government-run program would likely lower administrative costs but could increase wait times and reduce access to care, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report that raised cautions for Democratic lawmakers who back an idea known as Medicare for All.

“The report serves as a yardstick laying out possible pitfalls and advantages of instituting such a Medicare for All system, as well as the policy questions lawmakers would have to address.” WSJ

DEALING WITH TRUMP … “Trump’s deal with Democrats leaves GOP rolling its eyes,” by Melanie Zanona and Burgess Everett: “This week’s huddle on a $ 2 trillion infrastructure bill was no different, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walked away from the White House with an agreement in principle and a promise to meet again. But Republicans were pushing back on the handshake deal before some Democrats even made it back to the Capitol. …

“‘A lot of us enjoy watching … the trial balloons he floats. And oftentimes they’re extreme and aspirational,’ said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “And then the pushback comes, oftentimes from his own party.’” POLITICO

SEXUAL HARASSMENT FILES — WESLEY MORGAN: “Shanahan directs military to criminalize sexual harassment”: “Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan wants to make sexual harassment a ‘stand-alone military crime,’ and is calling on top military commanders to stamp out sex assault and harassment ahead of a damning new report showing the problem is getting worse.

“‘To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,’ Shanahan wrote in a memo to his top subordinates yesterday, which the Pentagon released today, citing data from a new annual report on sexual assault in the military. ‘This is unacceptable.’” POLITICO

— “Military sexual assaults rise by almost 38%; alcohol involved in nearly two out of three,” by USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook

TRUMP INC. — “Exclusive: Foreign government leases at Trump World Tower stir more emoluments concerns,” by Reuters’ Julia Harte: “The U.S. State Department allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress, according to documents and people familiar with the leases, a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.

“The 90-story Manhattan building, part of the real estate empire of Donald Trump, had housed diplomats and foreign officials before the property developer became president. But now that he is in the White House, such transactions must pass muster with federal lawmakers, some legal experts say. … The rental transactions, dating from the early months of Trump’s presidency and first revealed by Reuters, could add to mounting scrutiny of his business dealings with foreign governments, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits.” Reuters

2020 WATCH — ANOTHER ONE … “Michael Bennet dives into crowded Democratic presidential primary,” by Elena Schneider: “‘My plan is to run for president,’ Bennet said in an interview on ‘CBS This Morning’ — the same morning news show where Sen. Bernie Sanders launched his own 2020 run earlier this year. ‘This country faces two enormous challenges, among others. One is a lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans and the other is the need to restore integrity to our government.’

“But Bennet’s late entrance into the Democratic primary, months after many of his opponents got in the race, puts the senator behind the rest of the pack in everything from fundraising to building campaign infrastructure in the early primary and caucus states. It also means Bennet faces a mad dash to qualify for the first debates in June, when the Democratic National Committee has capped the number of participants at 20 candidates spread over two nights.” POLITICO … Bennet’s announcement video

A BIG DEAL … @NYTimesPR: “.@nytimes editorial page editor James Bennet has recused himself from 2020 election coverage following the announcement that his brother Senator Michael Bennet intends to run for president.”

— “Democrats Have 20 Spots in the First Debate. There Are Now 21 Candidates,” by NYT’s Matt Stevens: “Only 17 candidates have so far qualified for the first debate, so cuts are not guaranteed. … Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the D.N.C., said that the party has no plans to raise the cap from 20 or revise its debate qualification criteria.” NYT

— KNOWING CHASTEN BUTTIGIEG … WAPO’S ELLEN MCCARTHY: “Chasten Buttigieg has been a homeless community-college student and a Starbucks barista. Now, he could be ‘first gentleman’”: “Chasten stands out among the 2020 spouses for reasons other than the fact that he is a man married to a man, or that he is a millennial married to a millennial, or that this campaign is happening during the first year of their marriage, or that he is not yet 30.

“He is also the son of working-class Midwesterners, a first-generation college graduate, a guy who took a second job at Starbucks so he could have health care. The life story he tells includes bullying, estrangement, homelessness and sexual assault. His story represents both an American archetype and a modern phenomenon. And now that Chasten Buttigieg knows he’s being watched, what he cares about is being seen.” WaPo

ON THE WORLD STAGE — WSJ’S BENOIT FAUCON and SUMMER SAID: “Tighter Iranian Oil Sanctions Set Stage for U.S.-Saudi Showdown”: “[B]ehind the scenes, Riyadh and Washington face a potentially weekslong showdown over the number of extra barrels the kingdom would supply to global markets to keep crude prices stable. The U.S. is pushing to restart production in a field shared by the kingdom and Kuwait that could unlock half a million barrels a day, people familiar with the matter said.

“But at the same time, Saudi Arabia—in need of higher oil prices to keep its state budget balanced—is lobbying within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to change the way the cartel calculates whether the market is adequately supplied as a way to show the U.S. that no more oil is needed, people familiar with the matter said.” WSJ

THE LATEST IN VENEZUELA — “Secret Venezuela Dossier Warns About Maduro Confidant,” by NYT’s Nicholas Casey

— SCOOP … “Venezuela’s Opposition Held Talks With Government on Ousting Maduro,” by WSJ’s David Luhnow and José de Córdoba: “Venezuela’s opposition held secret talks with members of President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle in recent months in an ill-fated bid to get Mr. Maduro to leave power and install a united interim government, according to U.S. officials and Venezuelan opposition figures.” WSJ

— THE PRESIDENT, speaking at the National Day of Prayer Service today, said: “I’d like to begin by sending our prayers to the people of Venezuela in their righteous struggle for freedom. The brutal repression of the Venezuelan people must end, and it must end soon. … This was once one of the wealthiest countries in the world. So we wish them well. We’ll be there to help, and we are there to help.”

BOEING UPDATE — NYT’S NATALIE KITROEFF: “Boeing’s South Carolina Plant Subject to Increased Scrutiny”: “The Federal Aviation Administration has been increasing its scrutiny of Boeing’s plant near Charleston, S.C., where manufacturing errors have at times threatened to undermine safety.

“Since September, the agency has investigated and confirmed three safety complaints made by employees who detailed problems with planes in the final stages of production, according to an F.A.A. official and an internal agency email. The regulator is also looking into a claim that an employee faced pressure to sign off on work related to the airworthiness of a jet during the last week of March.” NYT

AFTERNOON READ — BUZZFEED’S ROSIE GRAY: “A Former Alt-Right Member’s Message: Get Out While You Still Can: Once notorious for her racist and bigoted tweets, Katie McHugh saw the dark insides of the white nationalist movement.” BuzzFeed

WHALE WATCHING … “Authorities: Alleged Russian spy whale is refusing to leave and seeking Norwegians’ devotion,” by WaPo’s Rick Noack

SPOTTED: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) running on the National Mall, near the Washington Monument, this morning.

SPOTTED at the Trump Hotel bar Wednesday night at a party for OMB’s Jeff Schlagenhauf, who is leaving for Paris to join the OECD as deputy secretary-general: Scott Mason, Rick Dearborn, Jeff Freeland, Mackenzie Smith, John Mashburn, Lori Mashburn, Dan Hanlon, John Gray, Rob Blair and Clark Barrow.

TRANSITIONS — Frank Eaton is joining Putnam Partners as a VP. He currently is managing partner at Two Frame Post. … Rochelle Colburn will be COO at College to Congress. She previously was assistant to the COO and EVP of policy at the Business Roundtable.

BONUS BIRTHDAY: Russ Sullivan, head of the national tax policy group at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, who was staff director for the Senate Finance Committee for nine years (h/t Annie Starke)

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